Alex Jackson, right, makes his way down a slight hill in Jackson Hole, Wyo., last weekend. Photo courtesy of Marie Jackson
Alex Jackson, right, makes his way down a slight hill in Jackson Hole, Wyo., last weekend. Photo courtesy of Marie Jackson

The Intermountain Division is so strong that some skiers from other areas compete in Intermountain Division races to gain experience against tougher club teams like the Park City Nordic Ski Club.

The Park City squad didn't disappoint, providing plenty of competition at the Junior Nordic Skiing Olympic Qualifying event in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Dec. 19 and 20. In both the classic and the freestyle mass start races, the Park City skiers performed well at all age groups, according to coach Gordon Lange.

"We took about 28 kids up to Jackson and we did pretty well," he said. "It's the very first [qualifier] of the year. In all the age classes, we were well represented. It was probably one of the best weekends for me as a coach."

The under-16 girls were one of Park City's strongest units, putting several skiers in top positions.

"In both races, there were four or five girls that were very strong," Lange said.

In the classic race, Leah Lange (age 15) took first with a time of 16 minutes, 3.2 seconds, defeating the second-place finisher by nearly 1:30. Sydney Palmer-Leger (age 11) finished third with a time of 17:42.8.

"Leah was really strong, but one of the surprises was Sydney Palmer-Leger," Gordon Lange said. "She's racing up two full age classes and skiing in the top three, which is almost unheard of."

Madison Morgan took fourth, with a time of 18:00.2 for the Park City squad, while Sienna Leger Redel captured a top-10 finish by crossing the line in 18:29.2.

In the free technique mass start, the Park City U16 girls once again dominated, with Lange again taking first place with a time of 16:06.3. Palmer-Leger finished second, 22.7 seconds behind her teammate.

Leger Redel finished in seventh place, with Jenae Rasmussen and Morgan finishing eighth and ninth, respectively, for Park City.

In the U18 races, Brenna Egan turned in a couple solid performances, finishing second in the classic race, behind only Emily Hyde of Mt. Hood, Ore., who was racing in the Intermountain Division to get more of a challenge, and fifth in the mass start.

"Brenna skied great," Gordon Lange said. "She's a second-year U18, so she should be good, but she came out and proved she was one to beat."

Lange was also pleasantly surprised with Sophie McDonald in the U18 category. McDonald finished second in the mass start and seventh in the classic.

"Sophie McDonald she's been one of the better runners on the Park City High School cross-country team," he said. "And now she's finding herself more comfortable with skis on her feet."

Julia Lazzaroni took eighth in the classic race, behind McDonald, and also finished eighth in the mass start.

On the boys' side, Kyle Beling had a good weekend, finishing 10th in the U20 mass start and fourth in the classic race.

Alex Jackson turned some heads in the U18 division, taking second place in the classic race and fifth in the mass start.

"He's a first-year U18," Lange said. "That's a really tough age group to do well in. When you're getting into that age group, you're up against tough kids. He had a great weekend."

Now, the Park City club will prepare for the U.S. National Championships at Soldier Hollow, with races taking place Jan. 4-8.

"Now we see how we did in the training season," Lange said. "We'll just rest and try to be healthy and in race shape, not just good shape."